CCL VS. NCL
CLEANLINESS: When we arrived to board the Carnival Miracle our cabin was ready and clean. We dropped off our carry-on luggage and went to lunch. After lunch, we went to find the nearest hot tub.
CLEANLINESS: When we sailed NCL Pride of Hawaii we had to wait several hours before we coul go to our cabin and unpack. When we were allowed to go to our cabin we found dirty sheets, medical waste in the gbg can and uneaten food in the refrigerator. It took us hours to get a housekeeping staff member to clean our cabin.
DINING; We didn't have as many choices as Princess has but we managed. We had grilled reubens for lunch everyday and chocolate melted cake every night which we thoroughly enjoyed.
DINING: We had lots of choices but unless we made reservations way ahead of time we we didn't have any options. NCL's freestyle dining was a joke.
EXCURSIONS: We were 2 hours late for our excursion in Belize due to Carnival's staff screwing up. We loved the Mayan ruins and Belize but we didn't get to see it all due to the 2hour delay. But the boat had to wait on us since we were on Carnival's excursion. Some of the passengers got left behind there because they went on their own. Our Cozumel dive excursion was great. The island of Cozumel is a disaster area due to Hurricane Wilma in 2005. The cruise ship terminal and dock are completely destroyed. HEY BOB DICKENSON! BUILD A NEW DOCK IN COZUMEL!!!-RCL IS BUILDING A NEW DOCK IN BELIZE AND CCL HAS WAY MORE MONEY THAN RCL!!!
EXCURSIONS: NCL stranded us on Maui for 4 hours so that they could make more money on their own luau which from what I heard wasn't that great. In case you didn't know the Hawaiian Islands are riddled with drug trafficking and the crime rate is high. When we finally got back to the ship my husband went to the purser's desk to demand a refund, to disembark the ship, and be flown back to Oahu. I went to the restaurant we paid $20 a head to eat at. They refunded our money and sent our dinner to the cabin. We almost missed our helicopter excursion due to an unscheduled trip to the macadamia nut gift shop. We only got to spend 15 minutes at the Pearl Harbor memorial which wasn't long enough to mourn the men that were lost that fateful day over 65 years ago. Thankfully, we planned our other excursions and they were great.
ENTERTAINMENT: Neither line has quality entertainment. We like movies so we brought a portable DVD player and movies from home to entertain ourselves. Hint: if you like to gamble-NCL's Hawaii's ships do not have a casino onboard.
VALUE: CCL cost us $1300 vs. NCL $3000. But we live in Tampa so we didn't have to fly anywhere which was great. But if you want to see the lava floes at night it's worth the trip. We were fascinated by the volcano and we have been reading about the lava and watching every special on the world's volcanoes as they are mesmerizing. I am writing this review so that no one goes on this cruise with high expectations. It is merely transportation between the Hawaiian islands. We booked our Luau separate from NCL. It was authentic alright. The fire dancer ignited the theatre and it burned to the ground 3 weeks before we got there. It was moved inside the hotel temporarily. The fire dance was down on the beach.
NEXT CRUISE: Our next cruise will be an Alaskan cruise. Neither CCL or NCL is up for that cruise. Since both lines have problems with their shore excursions and tendering we will go Princess or Holland America. We have sailed both lines twice and we loved them. They know how to do shore excursions very well and since we want a lot of excursions on that cruise and we expect perfect shore excursions. And that is what both lines have delivered. CCL is too cheap to use their life boats as tender boats and NCL strands their passengers.
I love the Carnival Miracle! This was my second cruise, my first as an adult (23)- the other was when I was in middle school, and I honestly had the time of my life! Our ports of call were Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, and Costa Maya.
Embarkation- We were allowed to start boarding the boat at 1PM and arrived at about 1:30 at the Port of Tampa, it took us about 30minutes from being dropped off to arriving in our room. So if you get a chance to leave from the Port of Tampa I highly recommend it. ( Not to mention that Channelside, very nice shopping eating and partying part of Tampa is right next to the port) Overall would give it a 10.
Cabin- We had an ocean view cabin 4117, it was an obstructed view but we really enjoyed the fact that we were able to open the French doors and get some fresh air into our cabin. The cabin itself was a great size a little over 180 sq.ft. and we never got claustrophobic once ( and I do have claustrophobic tendencies, lol). The bed was extremelycomfortable and never had any noise or disturbance problems whether it be day or night. Overall would give our cabin an 8.
Ship- really nice and clean, can tell is a newer ship. My only complaint is that the adult pool is a little small- and most of the time wasn't the adult pool but if that is my only complaint then I got off good! Oh and a lot of people on here kept complaining about the grapes in the Bacchus but I must have been out of it bc I don't even remember any grapes in the Bacchus- I do remember some pretty crazy colors but no grapes but would make sense since Bacchus was the god of wine.
Food- I am guessing that the food on the Miracle is about the same as any other cruise ship, I thought that it was good most of the time but there were a couple of instances where it wasn't the best. I wasn't crazy about the choices at the buffet, I am not into fried foods or hamburgers and hot dogs so I ended up eating either a Rubean, salad or veggie burger for lunch everyday- so you have to keep that in mind. The food at the Bacchus ( Main dining restaurant) was pretty good I always loved the appetizers and salad but the main course and dessert (except the chocolate melting cake) were okay- but then again I am spoiled and live in winter park (ORL), fl about a half a mile from some of the best dining in the country, so you have to keep that in mind as well. Didn't get a chance to go to Nick and Noras, which my boyfriend and I regret looking back on it because we had heard nothing but good things about the place. Over all I would give the food a 7.5.Ports-
Grand Cayman, we went through a private excursion agency when we booked our shore excursion for Grand Cayman. We rent Jet Skis from a place offline and had a blast on them. We got to take them for 7 mi. and during it we got to stop at Sting Ray City and play with the Rays, which was such a wonderful experience. They are such awesome animals and are really like a dog in the water, my boyfriend even stepped on one when getting off of the Jet Ski and nothing happened to him. After the Jet Ski we were permitted to stay on the resort and using the facilities but decided to head off to the port and shopping area-What a mistake. The shopping area at Grand Cayman is nothing but a big mall with not even a trace of the islands culture, If I wanted to do shopping like they offered here then I would go to the local mall. So my suggestion is to definitely book a shore excursion here my suggestion would be to anything that goes to Stingray City or Rum Point.
Cozumel, this port and Costa Maya are both tied for our two favorite ports. Here we booked ATV Beach Break for our excursion- whatever you do avoid this excursion. I thought that we would just be taking the ATV's a little trail and on the beach but I quickly learned that this was not the case. To make a long story short after 3 and a half hours in the jungle on a POS ATV, I emerged from the jungle soaking wet(from being chest deep in a mud puddle with my ATV steaming and hissing under the water), covered with mud, bleeding ( from running to to some rose bushes with barbed wire) and emotionally worn out. The only saving grace for this excursion for me was that afterwards we were taken to a really nice beach where I proceeded to drink 2 Grande Margaritas- highly recommend them. After the beach we were dropped off at the pier where there was incredible shopping. I would have done anything to stay at this port longer.
Belize- This is another place where you should definitely book an excursion bc there is not too much to do there and it is not necessarily the safest place to venture out on your own in. Here we decided to do the lost world canopy tour which was really fun and surprisingly very safe. Don't have much else to say about this port. Probably wont book a cruise that goes to this port again and if I do I will probably just enjoy the festivities on the ship for that day.
Costa Maya- Awesome port, completely underdeveloped which is what makes it great. Once again we went through the private shore excursion site to book our excursion here. We did Pez Quatro Beach and it was amazing. Finally didn't have to do any of my boyfriends crazy thrill seeking excursions and got a chance to relax. All of the natives were super friendly and once again found some great shopping in the tents around the beach. Would go back again in a heart beat but by then it will probably be all developed.
Dismemberment- Was easy and breezy. Grabbed our bags and got off the ship- how much easier can you get?
All and all would definitely cruise with Carnival again and would definitely do the Miracle again. Hope that I have been helpful and enjoy your cruise- I know you will have a blast.
As a first time cruiser (but certainly not the last), my intro to this wonderful vacation world could not have been on a better ship or line. Although there have been some negative reviews on the Miracle, my trip was super in all aspects. The staff of the Miracle is top-notch. There wasn't one unhappy crew member and all went out of their way to be pleasant and helpful. If you get the chance, be sure to get assigned to one of Ana's tables in the Bacchus Dining room. She was fantastic! To keep it brief, I'll mention only Ana, but there were many dozens of crew members I could also write about as being wonderful people. I can't wait to go on another cruise after such a fabulous experience.
This was the BEST vacation ever !!! I will definitely sail with Carnival again. The service was incredible, our dining staff "Frances" and "Ruel" were the best. The shows were terrific!! The ports of call were great with perfect weather to snorkel and enjoy the water. Our favorite port of call was Grand Cayman. The water was crystal clear to the bottom and it was only a few feet from the shore line. We didn't even go do any excursions. We just went to the beach every day or we were out sight seeing and shopping.
The sleeping accomodations were great. Every night we would come in with turn down service, mints on our pillows and a new towel animal on our bed. I also enjoyed the "coco-loco"'s at our bathrobe bear party on the Lido deck. Way cool. I didn't want to leave the ship.
Wonderful - Wonderful - Wonderful.
We had the best time.
At Tampa, it was a breeze to get on the ship. We stayed at the Chase Suites Hotel in Tampa. They have all suites, which are really nice. The hotel has a package that includes one night's stay; parking for your vehicle for the entire time of your cruise; transportation to the port; and pickup at the end of your cruise. It was great. They took us right to the door and were right there within minutes when we returned. The porter takes the bags right from the hotel's shuttle, so there is little to lug around. We found just a short line, a short wait for our group number to be called, and then we boarded. We left the hotel a little after 11 a.m. and were on the ship a little after noon. There are plenty of people to give you directions once you are on the ship.
We went straight to the Lido deck for lunch. It was a little crowded since everyone was eating at the same time and waiting for cabins to be ready, but itworked. We went to our cabin a little after 1 p.m., but it wasn't quite ready. Our cabin steward was nice. It seemed like every time you left your room, the steward would straighten up and it would look great when you returned.
They give out lanyards on the 2nd floor to hold your sail and sign card. This also works well with your Carnival Caper tear-off sheet summary for the day. It folds to fit easily in the holder with your card. Our kids didn't have any trouble keeping up with their cards this way.
We were in cabins 5107 (balcony) and 5105 (inside). This worked great for us and the two kids. It gave everyone their own bed, two bathrooms and an extended balcony that was plenty big enough for all of us to share. The cabin was so roomy compared to our past experience with another cruise line. The only problem was the choice of TV stations. We had several Carnival stations, CNN, and the local news out of Denver, CO (go figure). My husband wanted ESPN to keep up with the baseball trades. I would have liked to have the weather, but there is so much to do on the ship that TV is the last thing that you really want.
Our cabin was on the same deck as Camp Carnival, just a few doors down, but there was no problem with noise. We never heard any of the kids. It was great to be so close when our daughter wanted to go for just a little time. This deck was also right in the middle of everything - a few floors down for dinner and the shows, a few floors up for the pools and casual dining. Our room was on the starboard side, forward. There was a good bit of wind on the balcony but since it was warm out, it actually felt good. I haven't had a balcony room before to be able to compare. We slept in most mornings, so I didn't get any sunrise photos. We also stayed so busy that I never saw a sunset either.
Dining We had table 362 for dining. This is a table for four, upstairs in the very rear of the ship. It was near the windows so we could see out while eating. Our waiters were WONDERFUL. I cried on the last night when I had to tell them good-bye. Deo, the main waiter, was so happy to get us whatever we wanted. He called us by name each night and also memorized our preferences; he would bring some things just because he remembered we liked them.
The kids wouldn't miss dinner because they wanted to see Deo and Rico (the assistant). Our waiters were both from the Philippines. Rico was going home after our cruise so he was really excited about seeing his family soon. Deo did card tricks and napkin creations to entertain the kids. The food was great. We had prime rib two nights and filet mignon two nights (thanks to Deo). My daughter wanted more filet mignon one night when it wasn't on the menu, and Deo brought it to all of us that night as it was our choice as well. We asked for baked potatoes several nights, so he started bringing them from memory. He would bring a plate of chips or French fries for the kids as well.
My daughter thought it was great that room service was free. We used it several times, especially for breakfast. It was nice to have breakfast in bed or out on the balcony. If you order room service, you have to get the chocolate cake! My son loved the 24-hour pizza. My daughter also loved the 24-hour ice cream. One day she had ice cream at least 6 times! It was nice to cool down by the pool with a cone of chocolate ice cream.
Pools The pools seemed a little crowded much of the time. Of course, a port day is a good time to use them as a lot of people aren't on the ship. The pool on the lido deck forward was usually the least crowded as there was no band or food right by the pool. Of course, you could still hear music and it was only a short walk to the food. Carnival issues beach towels to each guest. They swap these out whenever they see them in your cabin after they have been used. The only problem is that if you lose one, you are charged $22 unless you report it to the purser's desk. We had two stolen by the pool one day. Everyone has towels that look just alike so I think it was just a mistake, but I was glad to know that since we reported it we didn't have to pay the fee.
Horatio's restaurant was great for casual dining, with good variety. It took a minute to get acquainted with all that they had, since it was in stations; but after that, it was great as it made for shorter lines. We loved the breakfast there. My husband had an omelet each morning made especially for him.
Entertainment The entertainment was good. The comic on the first night was the best. The second night was good as well, but we didn't care for the one the third night. We still went to all of the shows anyway. We also liked the adult comedy shows at 11 or 12 each night. Several nights they only have one show, so go early as it gets really crowded and you might not be able to sit together if you have several people. The other nights, the late-seating dinner people have their show at 7 p.m.; the early seatings have their show at 8-something. That works well.
You need to look over your Carnival Caper each day and highlight all that you want to do. Believe me, you will be having such a good time that you won't make it to all that you want, or you will just relax and decide to skip a few things. We loved the Newlywed Game, Family Feud, the towel-folding demo, hairy chest contest, etc. Also, pay attention to the times for trivia on your TV where you call in your answer for a chance at a prize.
They videotape all the events, some excursions, and other general goings-on throughout the cruise and you can purchase a copy. If you get involved, you are bound to be on there several times. The photos they take are pretty good, but pricey -- an 8X10 is $20. We easily spend over $100 for just a few shots.
The "Super Shopper" Robert was wonderful. If you plan to do any shopping on shore, you have to go to his talks. He tells you where the deals are, how much you should negotiate, gives out coupons, maps, and free items at these talks. You will be glad you went and will probably go each day before you go out to a port. They replay his talks on TV in your room if you just can't make it to the talk in person. He also has a station on the 2nd floor where you can stop by and ask personal shopping questions or just pick up info for the ports.
We didn't make it to any of the midnight buffets, but I heard several people talking about how good they were. We also missed the bathroom party. I was sorry to miss it, but I was feeling a little seasick that night. I had two nights that I didn't do well. I was wearing the patch, but the seas were a little rough. It usually got me during dinner when we were at the back of the ship. It wasn't too bad - I kept going but I just couldn't make it past midnight.
Grand Cayman - My husband loves to shop so we spend a lot of time shopping with him. He loves collecting Hard Rock shirts and had to get one there. He was also looking for a new watch Robert told him about that reduces stress. We looked at several stores for just the right one. We took a local taxi to Seven Mile Beach, which was great. The water was so clear that you could see your feet! We had a great time.
Cozumel - We shopped the whole day. We took a taxi to the Forum stores and shopped our way back almost to the pier. We did walk across the street to put our feet in the ocean but didn't really swim as it wasn’t a pretty beach. Several of the shops give away items to get you in the door. We got four pairs of free earrings and free drinks from some vendors. It was warm so the free drinks were nice. Several stores gave out bottled water and sodas in cans.
Belize - We did a little shopping in the tourist village at the pier. You can go through the vacant jewelry store to go out back and visit with the locals. My daughter got her hair braided. The locals were so nice. We negotiated with a local to get a tour of Belize City. It was so informative. He took us to see where the rich live (not that there are any rich by U.S. standards), where the poor live, the main businesses, special sites, etc. He was great. He did the tour for $20 for all four of us. The excursion people in the village wanted $30 per person for a similar tour in a much larger group. They also have a lot of hand-made items for sale. Of course, they ask you a thousand times to come look at their wares but they all mean well. This was my favorite port. I love history, and I feel that we got to see more of the actual location than in the other ports, where we just saw what they wanted tourists to see.
Costa Maya - This was the favorite port for both of our kids, mainly because we swam most of the day. The pool in the tourist section is huge. They had another pool closer to shore as well. You can't swim in the ocean at this place. You have to rent a taxi to go to the beach. We had such a great time here that we didn't make it to the beach. You have to go out by the shore, though, and try the hammocks. I could have taken a nap! We decided to let our daughter pick up a local item with her money, and she learned the art of negotiation. She is eight years old. She picked out a hand-painted clay turtle with a head that bobs. They started out at $10. After walking away twice, she got it for $3. She had seen us negotiate at the other ports. My son (age 13) and husband picked up two pair of Oakley sunglasses for $47. They started at $35 each, so that was pretty good negotiating as well.
We had to take a tender at all ports except Costa Maya, where the ship was able to dock. The tender boats were a lot better than our prior experience with another cruise line. Most of them were air-conditioned and quick. The one at Belize was open, but it was fun as it was a speedboat and you could sit on the back and watch the wake that it made. The kids loved this until they discovered that the water comes over the back and their seat was wet.
We also had a lot of time to just relax. There were lots of activities we could do as a family, which was nice to create memories together. We participated any time we were picked at the shows, etc. We got to demonstrate how to make a towel elephant. We were also picked for the family feud show. Get involved - it was a blast.
The decor of the ship was a little gaudy, but unless you are going for the decor, it didn't really matter. Yes, the grapes in the dining room are ugly. Even the crew will tell you that. My daughter was a little uncomfortable with all of the nudity in the ship's art. We tried to explain that in some countries it is really considered art, but at her young age she didn't really understand.
They give out decks of cards with Carnival on them if you ask at the purser's desk. We didn't know this for a few days, but them someone told us about it, so the kids played cards a lot after that.
If anyone has any questions and wanted to email me - email@example.com - I will be glad to try to help. If you are already booked on Miracle - happy sailing. I know you will have a blast!!
Having never been on a cruise of any type before, I can honestly say that the experience was more than I ever dreamed of. Truly awesome and fulfilling. I cannot wait to go again. The Miracle has the right name as it's crew, and staff are truly "Miraclous" people. Everyone who worked or represented the Miracles staff, was friendly, outgoing, and certainly showed pride in working and serving the needs of the passengers on this trip. The cleanliness of the ship was remarkable. The variety of food was fabulous. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about anything.
The room we had booked was on the advise of Adrian, our first point of contact, with Carnival I will highly recommend him to everyone I know, and strangers if they want contact information. My husband and I wanted this to be a special trip to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, and Adrian, suggested that being first timer cruisers and wanting a view (preferably a Balcony) yet keeping costs affordable, we get a room with an obstructed view. He explained that the lifeboat would be at our ankles. His description was most accurate! Ourroom, even though we didn't spend too much time in it was exceptional. It was roomy, had plenty of closet and drawer space and very well laid out. Our Room Steward(ess) Navie was phenomenal. She always made sure all of our needs were met, and always had a surprise towel friend waiting for us on our turned down bed each evening when we returned from dinner. She kept our room immaculate.
Dinners in the Bacchus Room were outstanding, as well as the dancing by the servers after dinner. Our anniversary was made very special by the staff singing to us and presenting us with a piece of cake with a lit candle in it, which my husband and I both blew out. The Matre D came over every night after that and chatted with us about our events of the day, and if we were having a good time.
My husband and I had a wonderful time on this ship. It is truly a most sincere crew, and notably Two Shoes Mark - our cruise director, was most entertaining as well as informative. He gave solid, honest advise on all of his talks.
To those first time cruisers - Choose the Miracle, it truly lives up to her name all around. Not only the ship but all those who work and take passage on her.
To those who are experienced cruisers - If you've never sailed the Miracle, please do so. She has much to offer as well as her exceptional crew, and staff.
To Mr. Bob Dickenson - It's not a surprise the Crystal Eagle award has been on the Miracle, every single person who works on that vessel should get one! Be proud of them, you have a great bunch of dedicated people representing her, and don't forget about that first contact of ours Adrian, answering the phone, he gave a great impression of Carnival as well. First impressions are the most important, and make the booking or break it.
by Barry Cooper - March 4, 2007 Who: Barry & Kathy Cooper and Barry's Brother and Sister-In-Law. Last Cruise: Carnival Glory (Eastern) - May 06 Next Cruise: Carnival Glory (Eastern) - May 07Getting started
Drove down from Virginia on Fri/Sat before Sun cruise. Note to self: don't drive to Florida on the days before Beach Week in Daytona Beach - loads of cars towing Motorcycles! Other than lots of traffic (but no real slow downs), drive was uneventful. Spent Sat night with my brother in Lake Mary, Fl (north of Orlando).
Embarkation in Tampa was very easy. Once again we got lost getting to the port in Tampa. The signs are not well marked. We missed the 1st exit because of the road construction and could not get to the exit. We got off in Downtown Tampa and of course, there was some kind of festival going on which closed some of the roads. Eventually, we made it. The four of us are all Platinum members, so the process was pretty easy as we skipped all the lines (once you get through Security). For a change, our dinner seating arrangements were correct,but we did go to the dining room to check out our table. It was a table for 4, which was perfect. Went to our rooms at 1:30. Luggage arrived before Muster Drill at 4 which was pretty short and not too hot.
The Cabin We had booked two cabins (separately) as a Balcony guarantee. We both ended up on the Panorama Deck on opposite sides and direction. Cabin location was (we were on the Port side almost at the back) not bad, but we did hear lots of noise early in the morning from chairs being moved on the levels above us. Was not all that bad, but noticeable. I did forget to bring my power strip (even though it was on my list, but I guess if you don't check your list, you suffer the consequences). We definitely could have used it. Will NOT forget it on our Glory cruise this May.
The ship This was our first time on the Miracle, but since we had been on the Pride before, it all seemed familiar. The public rooms did not seem as cold as I was expecting, but I still wore long sleeves or a sweatshirt most of the time that I was inside. Only made it to the show room (Phantom) once for the repeaters party, so not sure if it was cold since I had a suit jacket on that night.
We never did make it to any of the shows, but were regulars in the casino. My wife even came in 3rd in one of the Slot tournaments.
Food & Service I thought the dinners were really good. My brother and his wife were not as enthusiastic (they would be happy to eat in the supper club every night). Our dining room staff was a mixed bag - our Head Waitress, Natalia, was excellent, but her Assistant, Adrian, was new and somewhat slow. Both of them were extremely pleasant. We ate dinner twice (planned) in the supper club, Nick & Nora's. First meal was not that great to my wife and I (she was not feeling well and I think I ate too many appetizers at the repeater's party). Second time was much better as I ate less and enjoyed it more. Service in the Supper club was excellent.
3 of us had the Warm Chocolate Melting cake every night (I usually had another dessert as well) in the Main Dining room. It was definitely one of the highlights. Of course, I like all of the desserts!
Ports & Weather Weather was not great for the first part of the cruise and did not really warm up until the last few days.
Our ports were Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize and Costa Maya.
Due to the windy conditions and having to tender in Grand Cayman, the port was closed to all ships. This was a big disappointment to me as I was planning on doing a personal Rum Cake tasting tour in Georgetown. A similar thing happened to us on the Pride with Key West (maybe it has something to do with the Spirit Class and our cruising :)). We just had another day at sea. Carnival did give us $25 each On Board Credit for missing the port.
We docked at downtown Cozumel (a first for us). We got off the ship and just window shopped in the stores on the main street.
My wife and I did not get off the boat in Belize and just stayed on the ship and relaxed. My brother and his wife took the tender in, stayed about 20 minutes and came right back. We have done Beize before and knew what to expect. I did the Cave Tubing excursion there on a previous cruise and thought it was excellent.
We all got off the ship in Costa Maya and shopped at the port. Was not as successful (to me) as Cozumel as my wife actually bought something there :)
Since this was our 14th Carnival cruise (and 17th overall), we have done all these ports at least 2 other times, but had only done Grand Cayman once, which is why we were disappointed.
Debarkation Getting off the ship was extremely easy since we were all Platinum Level members. We met in one of the lounges at 8:15 AM and got off the ship by around 8:40 AM. Our luggage was waiting for us and we were in the car and gone by 9:00 AM. We dropped my brother and his wife off at their house and continued our drive home to Virginia. Note to self: don't drive from Florida at the end of Beach Week. We ran into 3 separate slow downs in North Florida and South Georgia.
Overall This was our 14th cruise on Carnival and we were definitely not disappointed. We all thought the crew on the ship were excellent. No real negatives other than that darn casino keeps taking my money!
This was my first Cruise experience, and I can say I was pleased beyond expectation. I was cruising with a group of 40+ people who were around the 30-40 year old range looking for "mid-life" week of partying, and just letting off steam. Carnival is sold as the "Fun Ships" and the Miracle did not disappoint, and the open bar card option for groups was perfect. There was a mix up concerning these cards that ended up being a communication problem from the Carnival rep that sat in on our group meeting and sign-up and the ship personnel. They had this handled by the second day, and the separate cards were issued to our group and the charges from the Sign and sail cards were credited.
Embarkation from Tampa. This was the one area that I felt needed some work. I had filled out my fun pass on line to expedite my arrival on the ship, but they just put everybody through the same way and it really took a lot of time to get through the lines two hours plus. Once on the ship it was great, and weenjoyed a great lunch at Horatio's. We had dinner at the dining room the first night because there was no dress code and our luggage had not arrived to the room yet. The food was good, and as said before the decor was a little over the top. Once we discovered the food at Horatio's was just as good or better we decided to eat there the rest of the cruise. This was not due to the dining room being sub standard, a lot of people in our group went every night and just raved about it. My Girlfriend and I decided that we are on vacation, and there will be no schedules (except excursions), or dress code for us!
Fun Day at sea. We learned very quickly that Carnival spends a lot of time making sure customers are taken care of, and are having a great time. There were lots of activities on the Lido deck and the service was quick and very friendly. On this first day we sort of picked out the places we hung out the rest of the daylight and evening part of the cruise. We tended to gravitate to the Orpheus pool on the aft deck due to the views, it is adult only, and Ramon the bartender there became our elected cruise director!
Ship entertainment and night life. I really enjoyed the Lido deck daytime activities, but the one thing at night was the Crown Jewel of mine and most in our group was the Band "Music Boardwalk" at Frankie and Johnnie's! I missed the first night they played, but was told of how great they were and from then on never missed a night! I hope the next annual cruise our group does includes these very talented 4 guys from the Philippines.
Being from the Chicago area I am a self proclaimed Pizza Snob, and I am very critical of my pizza. I started hearing chatter about how great the pizza was at the 24 HR pizzeria. I was really surprised to find out that the chatter was correct! Great Pizza. My waistline has suffered too.Excursions.
Grand Cayman.. We didn't do any ship sponsored excursion here. We just tendered over and took a cab to seven mile beach and enjoyed a day lounging in the sun.
Cozumel..It was a shame to see the damage to the port from the hurricane. We never left the port area because there was enough shops and fun to be had right there.
Belize... We did the Canoe and Wine Tasting Tour. I saw some negative reviews about this tour, and my experience was positive. It was great to see the area while canoeing through a river. The wines were "interesting", not something to write home about but different. Our tour guide through the city was excellent, as was the guide at Grans Farm who walked us through some trails and explained the local vegetation.
Costa Maya... Scuba excursion. This was the beginners Scuba for non certified divers. I have done quite a few dives before but never got certified. The outfit Carnival used was very proffesional (more so than I had seen in the past) I was comfortable with diving and they saw that, so they concentrated on the first timers most. A girl from our group was almost terrified to even do this but they taught her what she needed to know, and made her so comfortable that she never wanted to come back up! After our dive we took a cab to Tequila beach for the rest of the day. We had fun there, but the area is a little run down and there was a lot of litter on the shores. The area by the pier was the best of all the ports. Some vendors were very pushy, but not much different from most places in Mexico I have been.
Debarkation. No muss, no fuss. We put our bags out the night before, slept in, had a great breakfast at Horatio's, then left when we wanted to. Once we got in the line to debark it took no more than 1/2 an HR to get off the ship, pick up our luggage in the "Brown" area, clear customs, and be out on the street waiting for transportation.
In conclusion I can say my first cruise experience was great, and I can credit the whole crew of the Miracle for that. If I were to cruise without 40 other friends, and just be with my Girlfriend I might have gone to more of the ships shows, and participated in more sponsored activities, but this was the great thing about Carnival. You can do what ever you want. There is too much to do in 7 days!!
Our group is going to do this as an annual event from now on. Carnival is going to be our line of choice, and the Miracle might be tops in our choice of ships.
We just got back from a 7 day cruise and it was great! The weather was perfect, and we only had rain for one day. THe water seemed a bit more choppy than when we cruised in the Eastern Caribbean but I am not sure if that was due to the strange weather fronts around Tx.
I have to say, we were leary of switching to Carnival cruiselines because of its reputation of being a "partyboat"... we did not see that.
Everything ran like clockwork..from embarking, excursions and disembarking. They truly know the fastest and least stressful way of moving people. All the staff was truly friendly and helpful and spoke English well. They do know many other languages, which we found amazing. You never seemed as if you were bothering them or holding them up.
All the passengers were very friendly and courteous as well. Many "hellos" and excuse me's.
The meals were excellent. We never had a bad dinner--and the selection at the buffets,,, unbelievable.
We enjoyed the shows as well.. the comedians were the best for me. The dancers did a good job but the singers could be better. There were manyactivities for everyone and the children who were also there, had activities of their own. I have to tell you, we nev r really knew they were there.
Our balcony stateroom was big and roomy for 2. Some of my friends had 3 in their room and when they got their suitcases stashed under the bed, they seemed to have enough room to move about. I think the bathroom was bigger than the last time we cruised. One thing to consider, we were on level 8 and it is just below the Lido deck. WE could hear the chairs being moved and when they had their late night activities, you could hear the people stomping about. IT wasn't truly too bad,but if you are a light sleeper, you might want to know this.
The excursions they offered were enjoyed by most onboard. My sis and I did have one excursion that did not hold up to Carnival's standards. It was in Belize --canoeing and winetasting. The bus tour guide was very good, we only had a problem with the canoeing and winetasting portion. Poor nature guide and the "wine" was just plain awful. Would not recommend this excursion. We did mention this to the cruiseline that they re-evaluate this choice.
Some things we did not like were the offer of a "free lanyard" was only if you listened to their speil for their vacation club, the unlimited drink cards for soda was $50.00 for the week, and the pictures were a bit pricey.
But these became a running joke among our group.
We would definitely plan another cruise with Carnival.Enjoy Brenda---PA
If you have some questions,I would be glad to answer them to help with your trip.
Background: This is my 7th cruise, although 2 were back in the 80's so I don't remember much of those. I'm 36 (my birthday was the day of departure), my wife is 37 (her 4th cruise) and our daughters are 7 and 4 (the youngest turned 5 on 1/19).
We decided to carry on our own liquor (2 small bottles), so I bubble-wrapped it and put it in Ziploc bags in the bottom of our largest suitcase. We also brought along a small 3-in-1 plug strip, 2-12 packs of Diet Coke and a first aid kit. I also booked excursions in Grand Cayman (Capt. Marvin stingrays) and Belize (cave-tubing.com) before we left.
We almost had to cancel the trip because my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer the week before we left. Thankfully, the tumor was localized and removed, her treatment was worked out the day before we left, and my wife felt it was OK to go ahead and go. I'm glad we had insurance just in case. Needless to say, we really needed a vacation.
Pre-Departure: We left Alpharetta, GA on Friday, 1/12, and headed to Disney World for a longday in the Magic Kingdom on Saturday. On Sunday morning, we drove to the Port of Tampa, dropped off our luggage and parked at the port around 10:30. As we unloaded our carry-ons, we realized we had forgotten to stop for a couple of last minute items. We asked if we could leave the garage and run to Walgreens and at first, the attendant said no. We white-lied and said we had to grab some Benadryl for our kids' allergies, and she finally relented. After we had run our quick errands, we walked over to the port and it was starting to fill up with our fellow passengers.
Embarkation: We entered the port building and had our documents checked. They ushered us quickly through security screening and x-ray. We checked in and were placed in group 11. About 15 minutes later, our group was called and we boarded. It was very organized and quick compared to previous cruises.
1/14 - Embarkation Day: (Also my birthday!) We went to Deck 9 and had lunch. As luck would have it, a nice couple from Michigan sat at the next table with their 8 year old daughter. Our kids became fast friends and were inseparable the rest of the week.
When we were finishing up lunch, I sneaked into the cabin (the doors were still closed) and dropped off our carry-ons. We then explored the ship for a while before we were officially allowed in our cabin. We changed into bathing suits and were leaving for the pool when I picked up our pool towels and a half-empty cigarette pack fell out of the towels! We took everything to the purser's desk to complain and they were very apologetic. The purser told us she would let our steward know and immediately called the head of housekeeping while we were standing there. We didn't let it bother us and we went to swim.
When we returned to the cabin, the stewardess introduced herself (Nevi from Bulgaria) and apologized for the towel issue. She was very nice and we chatted with her often throughout the week. She spoke great English, although sometimes too much as my wife's nickname for her was "Chatty Cathy."
Our luggage arrived before 6 and we unpacked. We went up on deck to watch the Skyway bridge passage and the kids were excited to see how close we came. It was already dark, so we got some good pictures of the lights on the bridge and ship.
Before dinner, we went to the Camp Carnival orientation. See below for more on Camp Carnival.
Dinner was casual, although we were more casual than most. Our wait team was great (Ioan from Romania & Johnny from The Philippines) and we sat upstairs at table 377. See below for more specifics on food.
After dinner, the kids took me up on deck and sang happy birthday to me. We went to bed a little early as we were still tired from Disney the previous day.
1/15 - Fun Day at Sea: We relaxed and sat by the pool. We also took advantage of the excellent gym facilities. That night, we took the kids to their own formal parties and dinner, so we could have a nice dinner alone. I went to the late comedy show, but my wife didn't make it.
1/16 - Grand Cayman - We booked a snorkel/stingray tour with Captain Marvins at 11:15AM. After breakfast, we all tendered ashore to look around at the shops before our tour. The kids were a little whiny about the shopping, so my wife was frazzled by the time we got to the tour. We had to wait about 15 minutes at the dock for the boats to return from the earlier tours, but we left around noon. Snorkeling was fun, but my wife found the water too cold and mostly stayed on the boat. My 7 year old loved the snorkeling and we brought an underwater camera to snap pics of the fish. The stingrays were also fantastic. There were about 20 people on our boat, including 5 kids. We could see how many were on the Carnival tour and it would be hard to even get near the stingrays. I got to hold and feed a stingray and my kids loved petting them. Despite the fun of the tour, we decided based on the kids' whining about walking and waiting during the day to scrap the idea of them joining us cave tubing. We also decided that the water in the river would probably be too cold for my wife. More on that below.
When we got back to George Town, it was about 2:15. Some on our tour were from the Norwegian Majesty, whose last tender left at 2:30. Needless to say, they booked pretty fast to the tender dock. We also almost missed the last tender, because I spent too long looking at a watch that I ended up not buying.
That night, we took the kids to the kids' dinner and spent a nice evening alone.
1/17 - Cozumel - After the stress of dragging the kids around Cayman, we left them at Camp and tendered ashore. We had to get a tender sticker at 9AM in the Casino (we were #3), but we were ashore by around 10AM. We tendered at Puerta Maya so we took a cab to the main shopping area for $6. We walked around and got a little lost, but we eventually found the main flea market area. My wife was in heaven and we spent about 3-4 hours walking around. I also found the watch I looked at in Cayman for a little cheaper and bought it at Pama.
We went back on board around 3 and ate a late lunch. We picked up the kids and everyone took a much-needed nap. We took the kids back for kids' dinner and we decided to skip dinner because of our late lunch. We just ate a little sushi and went to Frankie & Johnnies to listen to Music Boardwalk (they are great - don't miss them!)
1/18 - Belize - After scrapping the cave tubing idea, we were deciding between horseback riding, biking or a canopy tour. We decided to play it safe and book through Carnival because we were leaving the kids on board. The tour desk agent steered me to the canopy tour and it didn't disappoint.
We were taken off on an early tender and made to wait at the port for a few minutes for some latecomers. The bus picked us up just outside the tourist village. There were about 30 people on the bus (a converted school bus), our driver was Arthur and our guide was Carol. We drove through the city first and Carol pointed out some landmarks. When we drove outside the city, she gave us some interesting background on Belize and passed around some sheets with pictures of local animals, birds, etc. for us to look at. We turned off the highway after about 45 minutes and then the "fun" began. We spent about 30 minutes on the bumpiest road before stopping for a quick potty and water break. We then spent another 20 minutes on that road before we reached the Lost World cave. The canopy tour was excellent. The guides were very professional (but fun) and we felt very safe. There were 5 traverses and 2 rappels with plenty of picture opportunities. We headed back after another quick water and potty stop and got back to the tourist village with about an hour to shop before the last tender back at 4PM.
That night we went to Nick & Nora's while the kids went to Camp again. We also went to the hypnotist show, which was great.
1/19 - Costa Maya - A pier! Finally, no tender. We took the kids and went to Majahual. We ran into my daughter's friend from Michigan, so we sat at the beach with them. I wasn't a big fan of the place we chose. If some guy named "Charlie Brown" tries to get you to sit at his restaurant, keep walking. His margaritas are watery and he has a lack of beach chairs. The kids had fun and we left around 1PM to go back to the ship for lunch. We took the kids to the pool after lunch and took turns running back down to the port area to look at the shops.
That night was formal night and my younger daughter's birthday. The waiters brought a cake (we had ordered it earlier in the week) and the surrounding tables sang Happy Birthday. We gave her some small presents we brought with us and then took the kids to camp where they made a big deal about her birthday again. We went to Ticket to Ride that night and the late night hypnotist show.
1/20 - Fun Day at Sea - We took the last opportunity to relax and recharge. My wife tried a seaweed wrap at the spa and thought it was pretty good. I managed to finish my book. We decided to keep the kids out of the sun after the amount they got the day before. As the day wore on, it got a little cooler and windier. The slide was also closed due to high winds. We packed a little early to avoid rushing later on and put our luggage out around 9:30PM.
We also had our last dinner without the kids and then picked them up to play bingo and see the Legends show (my wife and youngest didn't make it that late though).
1/21 - Tampa - We docked around 7, and had breakfast from room service so we could take our time. We went down to deck 2 and got in line around 8:15 after the final call for self-assist. They let the early flights off around 8:30 and then we were off by 8:40. We picked up the bags and were through customs and in the car by 8:55. Truly painless. We were back home in Alpharetta by 4:15 in the rain and cold.Other Info:
Food: Breakfast: We ordered room service several times using the door hanger and it was always on time. This was helpful on some of the early port days and the last morning. We went to Bacchus once and were not that impressed. The breakfast waiter was surly and got our order wrong. Horatio's was great for breakfast, with several omelet stations and hot food stations.
Lunch: Horatio's took some getting used to and is very spread out. I tended to check out everything and then pick one or two stations to get food rather than pick and choose from all. Basically, the Pizzeria, coffee bar and Salad Bar are at the rear separated from the Rotisserie, Deli and Dessert areas by drink stations. Around the corner moving forward, you have the Taste of Nations and Asian stations, along with more drink stations. Further forward, the grill is outside, along with ice cream stations. We particularly enjoyed the pizza, Asian station and our favorite days for Taste of Nations were Indian and of course Chocolate (last sea day). The kids usually ate either pizza or burgers and dogs from the grill.
Check out the Sushi bar on Deck 2. They had 3 or 4 different things every day, and although it was all cooked or smoked, it was tasty and filled the void between lunch and late seating dinner. The sundae bar on the afternoon of sea days was also a nice touch.
Dinner was always good to excellent. Some dishes we particularly enjoyed were: the sushi appetizer, Indian vegetarian entré, lobster tails (order two because they are small), chateaubriand, jerk pork, and of course, the warm chocolate melting cake (we must have ordered this 4 times). We skipped dinner once in the dining room due to a late lunch when we returned from Cozumel and once when we went to Nick and Nora's. Definitely try N&N's at least once. The food and service are excellent. I had the porterhouse and my wife had the lobster. We each ordered 2 appetizers and a salad as well as dessert.
We didn't eat much late night food except ice cream, but the Caribbean buffet on Thursday looked very good (couldn't eat because we had just left N&N's stuffed). The Gala Buffet on Friday night was more style than substance, but it looked good anyway.
Shows: We enjoyed the comedians (although the family shows were actually funnier than the R-rated shows) and hypnotist (both shows). We are not big fans of Broadway-type shows, so we walked out after about 2 minutes of Generations. I really enjoyed Ticket to Ride, although parts were a little disjointed. My wife only liked the last 15 minutes or so. I won't spoil that part for those who haven't seen it. I went to Legends with my oldest daughter and we really enjoyed it. Some of the passengers could really belt it out, while others at least tried (that's you Britney Spears).
Activities: I won Millionaire on the last sea day and we did a couple of trivia contests. Bingo was also a fun family activity. I spent some time in the casino, but I was not a fan of the electronic poker table. A dealer would be more fun.
Camp Carnival: The kids loved it. We even left them on the ship in Cozumel and Belize while we went ashore. My older daughter stayed until 12 or 1 most nights and made some good friends. There were only about 30-40 kids on the ship (which was great - we love our kids, but don't want to hang out with everyone else's), but they still had staff levels from the holiday time (where up to 700 kids sailed). All the kids got great attention from the counselors. Our kids participated in the kids' talent show on the last day, brought home many art projects, and received lots of goodies. We also did the family build a bear activity (for $19.99 per bear) on the last day. Camp Carnival gave my wife and I the chance to eat dinner alone and recharge our batteries.
Summary: Awesome! The ship surpassed our expectations in every way. It was a fantastic family (and adult) vacation.